On of the most amazing women I’ve met is Cindy Baker. She is a phenomenal artist who taught me in my last year. She introduced me to the idea of taboo bodies, invisible illness, and revamped my personal search for a diagnosis (right now it’s up in the air as for ADHD or ASD, but really I just want better help). What I understood from her about invisible illness, is that it encompasses illness/difficulty that are visually unsubstantiated. I don’t want to speak for other people or interject into theories I don’t study. BUT! I can relate. And I want to share my experience.
I casually brush off my mental illness because I feel like everyone struggles. I deny myself the kindness I show others in validating their experiences and emotions. I have a severe generalized anxiety disorder comorbid with chronic depression. That makes my life is exponentially hard.
Yet, I’m told I look amazing, graceful, put together, flawless.
I’ve disclosed my difficulties here in virtual reality where none of you have to see me everyday and your support is kind words. The everyday effect of people not knowing, or not taking me seriously because of the perfect artifice is best explained in an anecdote. As I’ve just graduated a lot of my friends suggest hanging out, but won’t meet me somewhere I already know. They give me an address and suggest we meet at these random locations. If I say yes, I usually cancel that day because I can’t stop crying because I am scared. If I say no, we don’t see each other. Ever. Seriously. I spend hours stressing over going places and how to feel safe and comfortable. I waste so much energy on it. The social impact sucks! I don’t go places I want to be, I don’t see the people I love, I isolate myself because in spite of all the ways I’m vulnerable I never tell people about my mental illnesses.
Another anecdotal telling is the end result of my psychosomatic symptoms. I hate getting “compliments” on how thin I am. I don’t choose it. I don’t want it. I actively try to put on weight. I’m 5’4″ and lucky if I can get myself to settle at 117lbs. I don’t eat out at restaurants because of my dietary sensitivities I tell people. Although this is true, it’s mostly nerves that cause my digestive and intestinal distress. I like to go for tea. A warm water based product, what could go wrong?!
The people I love aren’t aware of how hard this is for me. I get complimented on my courage and bravery, but this a fabrication. I act that way so I don’t feel scared. I’ve been doing this for years. I was diagnosed at 12 because of how severe the symptoms were. It’s obvious to health care professionals that I am experiencing fluctuation and emotional extremity beyond average experience. But if you talk to me you usually get the impression I’m just quirky. Not that I compulsively plan, that I regularly have intrusive thoughts, that if I don’t like a feeling or conversation I deflect or have to leave the room. I pretend things are going well. I figured if I did this long enough it would become real, but I met someone who pulled the loose threads of my fabrication and I don’t think things will ever be pretendable again.
I’ve eaten three meals in the last 5 hours because I can’t tell if I’m hungry or nervous. I’ve opted for meal replacement drinks for today.
Love always! Ange.